What I learned producing 50 Kisses by Gail Hackston

I can’t even begin to tell you how much producing 50 Kisses has enriched my life. But I also must tell you how much a pain in the arse it has been too! Like all film projects the buzz of the start quickly fades when you are knee deep in contracts at 2am and find a discrepancy. All in all, a few weeks after the premiere, and knowing 50 Kisses has been submitted to Cannes, I’m feeling pretty damn good about my Executive Producer credit.

First the good stuff…

  1. 50 Kisses was an amazing feat of human engineering – it engaged writers, directors, songwriters, producers and talent from around the world and made something remarkable.
  2. There is amazing untapped talent out there – like mindblowing, “why hasn’t this writer or filmmaker been signed up” talent. We only found some but there is far more out there. As a filmmaker myself it reassures me that not everyone comes out of university agency ready – you got to “make your bones” first.
  3. Good filmmakers genuinely want to find, and collaborate with, good writers – it seems so simple but this proved it. I know of at least one team that are now making a feature of their “kiss”.
  4. The press are genuinely interested in a new film story and 50 Kisses is one of them – 50 Kisses is remarkable. What I mean is it is the kind of thing that will be remarked on. 2000 writers, 135 films, 2 years, 1 premiere – boom!
  5. 50 Kisses was made by filmmakers around the world and facilitated by volunteers in the LSF office – No one got paid to do this. Doesn’t that blow your mind. Yes a credit was given but there were 2am finishes, 6 am starts, bloody shot eyes, “why are we doing this” and a LOT of coffee to get us here.
  6. Anyone, anywhere can make a film – Before I was involved in 50 Kisses I thought the actual making of films was left to other people, but a year or so later I’ve just finished my own short and am planning its festival run. Insane.
  7. Filmmaking – be it a feature or a short – is just about putting one foot in front of the other and keeping going. We hit snags, we hit problems, there were times when we all wanted to walk away but we didn’t and here we are, premiere in under 7 days.
  8. Completion and promotion although the end game, is the key to the films success – It’s like you run a marathon and once you get to the finish line, you realise you have to walk home. Completing something is powerful but with films, you have one chance to capitalise on the work you’ve put in. 2 years in all our cases – so let’s do it.

And the bad stuff…

  1. Sadly some filmmakers still don’t see the writer as important – There were two or three incidences where my mind was blown on this. We launch a competition under the auspices of the London Screenwriters Festival and some of the filmmakers forgot to credit the writer in their reel, or worse credit themselves instead. No man is an island. The filmmakers who got the most out this project were the ones who collaborated closely with their writer.
  2. Some people can’t follow instructions – “Send us a 2 page script in a PDF”, we got prose, poetry, 5 pages, 10 pages, word docs the lot. If you can’t follow instruction, we’re not interested. Reject. “Please send us X piece of information about your film” – silence. Until “Why isn’t my film in?” “Well because you didn’t send us X” “You were serious about that?”
  3. Some filmmakers couldn’t send us through what we needed to include them in the film – They made the film, they got the nod, they couldn’t complete.
  4. Some people “took their ball and went home” – As I kid I used to play football, when one of the kids – the one who owned the football – would get pissed off that they hadn’t scored, they would take their ball and stomp home. Some people did this on 50 Kisses – if their script hasn’t been chosen or worse their film hadn’t been chosen! They took the decision for everyone else involved in making the film that they weren’t going to participate anymore – one filmmaker didn’t even send us his credits, thus robbing his cast and crew of a feature film credit. Wow. That sure showed us!
  5. It’s YOUR fault my film career hasn’t taken off – Some people are quick to blame, it’s easier to look at their own behaviour and see what needs changing. Bottom line is we ran this competition to give people an opportunity, many have taken that opportunity. Many have not. Just because we provided it and facilitated it, doesn’t mean it’s our fault when you haven’t taken it, or it hasn’t worked out EXACTLY as you wanted it to.
  6. We had some amazing volunteers but never enough – a feature film credit was at stake and frankly, people didn’t want it. We kept relying on the same safe pairs of hands all the time. Insane.
  7. This has taken way more time and effort than we expected – We gave ourselves from April 12 to Feb 13 to source scripts, source films, source songs and edit together a feature film. Hindsight giving us the 20/20 vision it does – we realise that that timetable was a tad ambitious. Next time, and the team are keen to create a next time for everyone, we’ll be realistic on dates, or format, or structure and the time it takes in OUR lives too.

So, all in all would I do it again. You bet your sweet ass I would. Am I proud of 50 Kisses? Hell yes.

Here’s my ask of you, would you like us to do this again? If so, what can you do to make it happen?



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